Colorado Gun Watch: Gun Lobby wins big in 2003 session
A look at post-Columbine Colorado returning to the control of the gun lobby with passage of two pro gun bills
Immediately following the Columbine massacre, a few pro bills, which were about to pass, were pulled off the table out of "respect" for Columbine. In 2000 the voters of Colorado passed a gun control ballot initiative, closing the "gun show loophole," by a hugr margin of 70% to 30%. I believe that overwhelming vote signaled a desire to put reasonable restrictions on guns. Despite that, the state legislature and governor gave in to the gun lobby, enacting two laws that will put more concealed weapons on the street and wipe out local gun laws. Yes, 2003 will go down as the year the gun lobby put aside Columbine and bullied its way back into
The first new law is pretty extreme. Senate Bill 25, sponsored by Senator Jim Dyer of Littleton, preempts (wipes out) existing local gun laws in favor of state gun laws. The problem is, there are very few state gun laws--that's why local governments passed their own in the first place! Local governments have passed laws against openly carrying guns, against certain assault weapons, against carrying loaded guns in an automobile, against shooting guns within city limits, etc. etc.
Locals have passed these laws as tools to better fight gun crime. But now those laws are gone. Republican legislators say they support local control--but apparently, as with consumer safety laws, guns are the exception. Supporters of Senate Bill 25 say they just want to make gun laws uniform and make things more convenient for gun owners. No, they just want to make our gun laws uniformly weaker. As for "convenience," I think gun owners should take the responsibility to learn the gun laws where they want to carry their guns, and our lawmakers, when considering gun laws, should be concentrating on safety, not convenience.
Senate Bill 24 was also signed into law. This law will require a background check and fingerprinting for those seeking concealed weapons permits. It will also prohibit sheriffs from passing out permits to people who live outside their jurisdiction. Establishing these two standards is an improvement over the existing law. However, this bill goes far beyond those two good features. It shifts Colorado from a "may issue" state to a "shall issue" state--it REQUIRES local sheriffs to issue permits to qualified applicants even if that community does not wish to issue a lot of permits. Also, it would allow concealed weapons in nearly all public places (college dorms, parks, stadiums, city ffices) and wouldn't allow local governments to limit where these hidden, loaded guns could be carried.
I urged my legislators to oppose these bills. Sadly, they voted for them both. I tried to ask them why. They didn't return phone calls. It was months later before they would even return a phone call. It's ad to Columbine's representatives, Senator Norma Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Representative Don Lee (email@example.com), voting in lock-step with the gun lobby.
I asked the Governor (firstname.lastname@example.org) where he stood on these pro gun bills, but he wouldn't respond on Senate Bill 25 or House Bill 1119 until after they were passed and signed by him. Through two different channels I asked for a meeting with the Governor before he would sign them. I didn't think I was asking for too much--I met with him a few times on the gun show loophole bill back in 2000. But his office never responded. The Governor signed the two bills on March 18, the first day of a huge 3-foot blizzard in Denver, and just before the start of our war with Iraq. He signed them in a way that was certain to get very little attention.
I then wrote a letter in April 2003 asking the Governor why I never got any kind of response. That letter also was never answered. I asked someone on his staff why I never received any responses; this person I used to work with and had a lot of respect for. I couldn't even get a return phone call from HIM. That's how bad it has gotten.
And that wasn't all. Another pro gun bill, sponsored by Rep. Rose of Montrose, was especially upsetting to me. It would have re-written a number of the provisions of Amendment 22--the voter ballot initiative that closed the gun show loophole in Colorado. Yes, the people of Colorado approved Amendment 22 by an overwhelming 70% to 30% margin, yet less than 3 years later an attempt was made to weaken it! This bill eventually was killed in committee. It never should have seen the light of day in the first place.